What Happens To Our Bodies When We Don’t Sleep

We all know that there’s never enough hours in the day and, in many cases, the first thing that suffers when we’ve things to do. The temptation to pull an ‘all nighter’ to get things done is one which never goes away, however many of us never stop to think about what actually happens to our bodies when we don’t sleep.

When you take the time to research the effects, some are truly shocking and would make anyone stop and think twice about burning the candle at both ends. We’ve taken the time to compile the effects of sleep deprivation, the most common of which you’ll find below:


1. Our Hormones Go Haywire

A lack of sleep is known to cause a number of hormonal imbalances which can affect everything from growth to metabolism. When we sleep, Human Growth Hormone hormones, as an example, peak and if we deny our bodies of this process, we start to experience imbalances and a number of effects. With this specific example, growth and cell repair may suffer after even a few night’s with a lack of sleep.

Perhaps one of the more shocking issues of sleep deprivation and hormones is how our metabolism is affected when we choose to stay up late over a period of time. Studies have previously been carried out which evaluated the effects of sleep deprivation on healthy individuals, showing a change in hormones which regulate appetite, causing us to seek out food and eat, as well as in glucose metabolism.


2. The Risk Of Diabetes Is Doubled

Even just a week of sleep deprivation can cause significant alterations in glucose tolerance and the effects of this are shocking, including increased risks of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is believed that those who sleep less than six hours per night are twice as likely to develop diabetes within their lifetime than those who sleep the recommended seven to nine.


3. Weight Gain & Sleep Deprivation Are Closely Linked

Have you ever tried your best to lose weight yet found that almost anything you do in an attempt fails to make much of an impact? If this sounds like you, ask yourself how many hours sleep you get on average each night.

Sleep deprivation is known to cause weight gain and whilst the greatest risk of obesity comes when one gets between two and four hours of sleep each night, even sleeping between four and six hours is known to be the cause of either piling on the pounds or struggling to lose any.

Of course, part of this is, as discussed above, due to the fact that changes in hormonal balances cause impaired glucose tolerance which encourages us to eat more when we’re tired as well as our lack of desire to exercise when we’ve not had enough sleep.


4. Cortisol Secretion Becomes Messed Up

Cortisol is a steroid hormone which regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. A lack of sleep, however, is known to mess up cortisol secretion, elevating levels in the body and slow the rate at which levels decrease by up to six times. Given that cortisol heightens alertness, it is not desired for levels to be high at bedtime. Again, elevated cortisol levels can contribute to the development of diabetes and obesity, something which we keep seeing over and over again.


5. The Effects On The Brain Are Surprising

At the very least, a lack of sleep causes normal functioning to be hindered and the likes of a lack of energy, bad moods and restlessness experienced. These aren’t pleasant experiences, however things which we can all put up with for a day or two.

Excessive sleepiness, on the other hand, can lead to episodes known as ‘microsleeps’ where our bodies momentarily fall into a short sleep, a known cause of car accidents.

It is also thought that a lack of sleep can affect our memory, with sleep deprivation leading to memory loss and forgetfulness.

The Mail Online has previously stated that “just one bad night’s sleep can have a dramatic effect on your memory – even leading to false memories”. This revelation is simply shocking and should cause anyone considering pulling an all-nighter to seriously re-think their plan.

“We found memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation,’ said Kimberly Fenn, MSU associate professor of psychology and co-investigator to The Daily Main, ‘And people are getting less sleep each night than they ever have.”


6. It Kills Sex Drive

Perhaps a little more discreet, but sleep deprivation is known to kill sex drive in both men and women. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.

If your partner recently seems uninterested in the bedroom, could they be suffering from a lack of sleep either through choice or as a result of a condition such as insomnia or sleep apnoea?


7. Your Skin Will Age Quicker

After a few nights of missed sleep, you’ll start to experience sallow skin and puffy eyes, however in the long-run, this can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. This comes back to the increased levels of cortisol which, when seen in excess amounts, can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Combined with too little Human Growth Hormone being released, this can lead to premature ageing, making you look older than you are.


8. Depression Is Far More Common In The Sleep Deprived

It is estimated that one in five adults in the UK suffer from depression or anxiety and a lack of sleep is known to contribute towards this. In a sleep study carried out in 2005, those diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

In addition, insomnia is known to be linked closely to depression and in a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those who suffer from insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without the condition.

This, to many, comes as a vicious circle as sleep loss can heighten the effects of depression whilst depression can also make it far harder to fall asleep in the first place. This does mean, however, that sorting out sleep problems can also provide relief from the symptoms of depression.


9. A Lack Of Sleep Can Kill You

Whilst this may be an exaggeration, the “Whitehall II Study” looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. When released in 2007, the results highlighted that those who sleep less than five hours a night were twice as likely to die from all causes than those who sleep at least seven. The highest risk linked to sleep deprivation comes from cardiovascular disease.


10. The Effects Are Similar To Being Drunk

We all know what it feels like to be drunk but did you know that a lack of sleep can cause levels of impaired judgement which are similar, if not worse? A lack of sleep can cause us to make decisions which we wouldn’t usually make and, when it comes to driving, operating machinery or similar, those made when tired can, in some cases, prove to be fatal.

At the end of the day, many of us don’t think twice before pulling an all-nighter, however upon reading some of these shocking effects on our bodies after a bad night’s sleep, it may make many reconsider!